Note: This article was originally posted on our sister site, The Technovore.
I love horror movies…and while it certainly has waned over the years, I also have a fond spot for zombie movies. That’s why when Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake hit in the early 2000s, I pretty much loved it! It also helped that I watched the movie right after watching George Romero’s awesome original version! While Army of the Dead isn’t a George Romero movie, it is a Snyder film through and through…for good and bad.
Now years after that (and hot on the heels of Zack Snyder’s Justice League), comes yet another Snyder zombie movie. I don’t know whether this is set in the same universe as his Dawn of the Dead (I doubt it considering the fact that most civilians don’t believe in the existence of zombies in the movie), but Army of the Dead is pretty much better in every way than Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead.
In fact, out of the tons of zombie movies I’ve seen, it easily ranks in my Top 10. Its intro certainly ranks as one of the best; it succinctly builds up the characters you’re going to meet while also giving you a mini-movie of sorts, as you see them rescuing people and trying to escape the zombie infestation…all before the movie properly even begins!
The film’s an interesting blend of zombie and heist movie genre that it pretty much works. Not perfectly mind you, but the two genres gel together better than I’d have expected.
Basically, Batista’s character is hired by a shady Japanese businessman to round up a crew and make a trip into zombie infested Las Vegas to recover tons of money that would be incinerated by an upcoming nuclear strike. There’s more to it than that of course, but that main motivation for them going in? Recover the cash from the heavily sealed vault of one of Vegas’ casinos.
Since I’m too damn lazy to list out everybody who’s in the film, here’s IMDB to the rescue.
It really helps that there are some really cool set pieces (like the slow walk through the throngs of hibernating undead and the casino shootout) to help move the movie along. I wish the tiger got more screen time though.
Weirdly, the addition of the undead tiger brings to mind why there aren’t any more infected animals. What about the cats or dogs? Las Vegas has a zoo right?
As for the human zombies, I’m a bit divided.
I love the regular shambling undead (classic!), but I’ve always felt that the more agile and coordinated zombies were boring and less scary. It’s again the case here, especially when the Alphas (the smart zombies) start their assault in the last third of the movie.
Then again, previous Romero movies too had these types of smart zombies so it’s not exactly a shock…just an uninteresting way to put a face on the formless zombie threat. I just wished that the movie elaborated more on where the original zombie came from.
Was he a remnant from another Dead film? Was he a military guinea pig? Why were the military so concerned with getting a new blood sample in that case? Wouldn’t they already have ample access since he was being transported by the Army in the beginning?
There are a ton of similarly confounding plot holes (like why couldn’t they just airdrop onto the casino or flew in under the cover of night and under the radar instead of trekking in?) that doesn’t make sense though there are some pretty cool lore additions that I do hope other movies will adopt.
I especially love that the desiccated zombies come back to life when there’s water (as mentioned in the movie).
It’d be cool to watch, but unfortunately there weren’t any scenes with that.
The acting’s pretty decent (though I think Dave Bautista can do with more emotions other than anger, anger, conflicted anger and sadness) so that helps matters. Then again, I didn’t really care much for the characters…but who would in a zombie movie, right? You just want them all to die in the goriest way possible.
At least in this sense, Snyder is of the same mindset. Character deaths are usually violent and in slow motion, which I really love…but there’s not as blood and visceral violence as you’d think.
In that regard, I’m a bit disappointed. There’s gore in the movie, but it’s weirdly subdued (apart from some certain scenes).
It kind of feels held back, though it’s definitely a movie for adults (the topless ladies can attest to that). Having grown up with gory movies like Peter Jackson’s Braindead and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, the Netflix’s Army of the Dead is severely lacking in that department.
Another department where I feel the movie could’ve been tweaked is the ending.
It feels too similar to Resident Evil Apocalypse’s (or Resident Evil Nemesis, as that’s where the original ending came from) or even Aliens vs Predator Requiem, with a helicopter escaping the city as an incoming nuke hits. It even hits the same beats; you can see the nuke zooming to its target, you see the mushroom cloud and the chopper crashes.
The absolutely worst thing about the film?
Pretty much every song (except for a handful) is a cover and every single one of those covers suck. The worst offender of them is Viva Las Vegas by Richard Cheese.
How the hell can you turn one of Elvis’ most memorable song into something this shitty? It must take effort!
At the end though, I still love the film, despite its many inadequacies. The ending is ambiguous enough that it leaves room for a potential sequel, but isn’t an outright copout that makes you feel gypped. It’s a great way to end the film (or even start a franchise) with the hope that the shit’s not over…
If you’ve time to spare and love zombie movies, you have got to watch Netflix’s Army of the Dead, it’s available RIGHT NOW to stream.